moonlight

Franko stands in the pale moonlight unaware of what awaits him

Welcome to the second Frantic Franko development diary entry. This time it’ll be the opposite of the marketing blurb from the last time. This time around I present only plain brutal facts.

So…. I’ll talk a bit about how the process of building up the concept looked like and how things evolved over time for the part of the game that is currently in the finishing stages (You can see screenshots for that chapter’s two main locations). But first, a quick overview of the game for the uninitiated.

Frantic Franko: A Bergzwerg Gone Berserk tells of a hero’s long journey, but it doesn’t make an epic story out of it, focusing rather on the personages and puzzle solving. I’d compare the structure to the adventures of Leisure Suit Larry who would always jump around all females he accidentally meets and then solve their problems for them, but I should make it clear that Frantic Franko will look for a different things than sex (sorry, folks), as a matter of fact he will be primarily looking for revenge… The puzzles on the other hand may be a bit in the vein of the Gobliiins series, yet with lots of dialogue puzzles among them. And for the game interface I used the classic full-throttlesque verbcoin, but there won’t be any eyes, magnifying glasses or hands to choose from… So anyway, everything in the game should seem reasonably familiar…

I set out with the idea of making a humorous fantasy game and the image of an ill-tempered dwarven male warrior immediately appeared in my mind. Shortly thereafter I knew most of his history and character traits and without much ado Frantic Franko was born (the name, however, came much later). The environment I first wanted to put my hero in was an atmospheric forest at night. The vital part of the storyline in that portion of the game is that Franko meets a strange man calling himself Bloons who gives him a seemingly simple and straightforward quest he reluctantly accepts. Later on there are unexpected consequences of pursuing it.

campsite

Franko, Bloons and Fire is an explosive combo

From the very beginning I wanted the game to be simple and economically made. It wasn’t to have lots of locations or animations, but rather use up what it has got to the extreme. The ideas for Franko and Bloons characters, the forest location where they meet, and Bloons’ quest came before anything else and they were supposed to make the bulk of the game to which I’d later add a short opening and a bit longer closure. Yet I started to feel that it wouldn’t be much of an interesting storytelling attempt if the completion of the small quest didn’t lead to a more challenging one, or at least to a presentation of some larger event as a surprising and dynamic cutscene. But while you could add some elaborate outro and be done with it, why waste production values on a non-interactive sequence, especially one with new backgrounds? It makes much more sense to turn it into an additional act in the game. Another important reason for considering a bigger scope was that without a new, longer chapter the Bloons character looses potential to develop beyond what he can show you right after being introduced. You really need some space for revealing his nature in full. Finally, in this act the puzzles are fairly non-linear so the story can’t actually carry on forward too much between the player solving puzzles – again, the story would benefit from another setting, new situations, additional space. This lead me to ultimately deciding that the central act is only a setup to a bigger chapter presenting the game’s climax. The game won’t be as simple as originally intended.

Initially all that was to happen in the woods was to happen around the campsite – a place dense with forest growth, yet it was meant to be a large scrollable location. Somehow that combination didn’t work in the actual background creation. It came off a bit… tight. Surprisingly all important objects fit quite well into this small scene, yet the playing experience was definitely too much like being a fish in an aquarium, especially when Bloons started hovering all over the place. It was too much of a waste to redo the art and throw away the old one though. Ultimately, I decided to create a new location instead. I wanted to have it different, refreshing, to contrast with the first. I think it does that very well indeed. Yet now I definitely needed to give it some distinctive visual elements that will also have important roles in playing through the game. Not only that, but I wasn’t happy about some of the puzzles from the old version, especially after reactions of people that tried to solve them. What inspired me with new ideas was the image of the moon in the new location. A moon above a large puddle. It wasn’t supposed to be there originally. Originally, I wanted all the woods locations to be dark and the sky always covered by the tree branches. Yet the unwanted moon enlightened me. Even if at the price of my simple game getting complicated even more.

More details coming next time!